Sunday, January 07, 2007

When a YRUU overnight and a meeting of the regional transgender group happen on the same night in the same church.

Not one kid said one thing that was disrespectful, or even implied
that there was anything unusual about the meeting. When one girl
overheard that somebody wanted the number for the local pizza place,
she pulled out her cell phone and gave it to the woman who asked.

Now on the one hand, I realize that being able to share a building
with strangers who are different without treating them in any way as
an outsider is a pretty baseline requirement for decent human

But at the same time, I know what the jackass kids I went to high
school with might have been like in the same situation. And I know
that even good people don't always live up to the ideals of tolerance.

But my YRUU kids treated the transgender folks just like everyone
else, to their faces and behind their backs.

One can have a lot of complaints about Unitarian Universalism, and I do.

But we do a few things right.



"Friends? Hah. These are my only friends. Grown-up nerds like Gore
Vidal. And HE's kissed more boys than I ever will."

--Lisa Simpson


Comrade Kevin said...

Despite the flaws we have, we do have many strengths.

And I for one, am proud to be a Unitarian.

Kanga Jen said...

Just found your blog...I'm an advisor for the YRUUs in our congregation as well, and have been heartened many times by the kids' attitudes. They're so honest. That's what makes my heart swell. They're kind (usually) and they do it from honesty, not because it's been told to them to act that way. They are being taught to think for themselves, and for the most part, I love seeing the results of that.

Anonymous said...

One of your complaints against UU churches is that they are too political, and especially they are entirely "left" in their politics. To what extent do you think that kind of selection bias (UU churches attracting liberals, and pushing away conservatives) will mean that the teenagers in the congregation are likely to be very tolerant of a liberal-friendly minority group like trans folk? I mean, if your parents have raised you to be cool about particular kinds of differences, and your church rants against the bigots opposed to same-sex marriage, aren't you going to be pre-disposed to be nice to LGBTers without its necessarily arising from the spirituality the church encourages in its members?

PeaceBang said...

Dig, CC.

Anonymous said...

PG -- are you claiming that conservatism is an inborn trait, like LBGT?

Obijuan said...

I advised YRUU for three years before I entered seminary. I loved those kids. They were smart and big-hearted and interested in things outside their own little horizons, and I wished I could go back in time and be a UU youth. I was never that cool. Or smart.

Anonymous said...


Huh? I am combing through my comment trying to figure out what would make someone think I was claiming anything of the sort, and haven't been able to understand it. Please elaborate.

My question was whether it's something peculiar to UUism, as a religion, that makes the youth groups nice to a minority group like trans folk (as I'm sure they would be to other minority groups like those of race and perhaps economic class, but less certain of, say, religious minorities or geographically marginalized), or if it's because UU churches tend to get lots of liberals who raise their kids that way regardless of the religion they espouse.

Anonymous said...

pg -- You seemed to be making a parallel between being tolerant of a trans group and being tolerant of a conservative group. Does that mean we should be tolerant of conservative ideas because they were born that way and can't help themselves?

Anonymous said...

I am experiencing a strange problem with posting -- is anyone else having the problem I am having?:
I type in the letters for word verification, and even when they are exactly the correct letters, it makes me do it a second time before it will accept the post.

Anonymous said...


I'm really confused as to where you're seeing the parallel. My only mention of conservatives was to say that CC and Joel have claimed that the UU church is unfriendly to them. Perhaps you getting it from this sentence: "I mean, if your parents have raised you to be cool about particular kinds of differences, and your church rants against the bigots opposed to same-sex marriage, aren't you going to be pre-disposed to be nice to LGBTers without its necessarily arising from the spirituality the church encourages in its members?"

My point in noting that "your church rants against the bigots opposed to same-sex marriage" is that the message the youth group gets from the church is that it is wrong to be opposed to LGBT rights. If you are getting that message, and accept it instead of being hostile to (and perhaps leaving the church because of) it, then it seems to me that you are going to be nice to the trans group not necessarily because of religious, spiritual or even general moral sentiment, but because this is the politics in which you are being trained (and probably hearing at home, as well). I think this is the right kind of politics, but the whole point of my question was to CC as to whether what she likes about the YRUU kids is coming from religion or politics, given her much-expressed dislike of mixing the two.

Although it's irrelevant to my question, I'm not clear on how being trans is an "inborn characteristic," given that gender is a social construct. You are born with a set of genitalia that give you a physical sex, but the set of characteristics accepted as "masculine" or "feminine" is socially taught. If we had a gender neutral society in which everyone wore skirts, no one wore makeup or had shaved legs, and the genitalia of people you found attractive was no one else's business, there would be no such thing as "transgender." Because of the society we have, people whose physical sex doesn't match with the set of gendered characteristics need to be able to make them match, but a trait based on social constructs isn't really "inborn." (However, a preference for having sex with a person with a vagina instead of a penis can be inborn, and of course the vaginas and penises are inborn, so sexual orientation qualifies as an inborn characteristic.) I think we are inching toward a gender-neutral society in which a person with a penis who wants to act and be treated in a way we'd now identify as "feminine" can do so without getting the penis cut off, and my bias is in favor of that rather than the status quo.

Also, we aren't tolerant of things just because they are "born that way and can't help themselves." I'm not going to tolerate pedophilia just because it may be an inborn characteristic (as it may be -- there are people with pedophiliac desires who squelch them because they realize intellectually that they're wrong, so it's unlikely that such people would "choose" to have those desires). We tolerate that which does not harm others, and I see nothing harmful in a same-sex or sex-neutral sexual orientation, nor in someone's preferring a gender that our society currently considers not to "match" that person's genitalia. Therefore there is no reason to squelch those desires.

Bill Baar said...

I'm a conservative UU of a sort... at least a UU who's very supportive of George Bush. I've never been treated badly at Church for it. People may be surprized but I've never been treated badly.

Toleration, for what ever it's worth, is a word I avoid after going through countless diversity trainings at work.

My wife found out the hard way in her taining that toleration is not the right buzz word today. We respect differences. We don't tolerate them.

And that's probably the right way to go...

I've always been treated with respect by UUs with one or two exceptions in the blogosphere where I've been called a jerk... but blogs don't count.

Anonymous said...

[shrug] There are some differences I find worthy of respect, and there are some that I tolerate only because they don't harm anyone else. I respect sincere and nonviolent religion or lack thereof; I tolerate juvenilia like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Demanding that we *respect* all differences for political correctness is like demanding that we respect all people for good etiquette; people are more likely to go along if you demand only that that they not actually spit in others' faces.